THE number of tourists visiting the hospital on the Isle of Wight increased by 12 per cent this year, with the heatwave putting added strain on the NHS.

The effects of the prolonged weather meant overall attendance at the Emergency Department at St Mary’s was up by five per cent.

The average number of visitors to A&E is 130 during the week, up to 150 at weekends.

However, during the summer months there were 170 patients during the week, with the number rising to 230 during one busy weekend in August.

Speaking at the Isle of Wight NHS Trust board, chief executive, Maggie Oldham said: “We have seen queues in our Emergency Department that I have not seen the likes of for many years.”

Mrs Oldham said the ‘very harsh summer’ had impacted all areas of the hospital.

She said: “We find ourselves at a winter level of activity at a time when we have got a summer profiling of staff.

“Rightly our good staff are on holiday, so we find ourselves in a situation where we have taken out the winter capacity and we have seen a surge in demand which has been extremely difficult for us to cope with.”

Compton Ward, an additional ward used to handle winter pressures, was closed at the start of the summer due a lack of funding however, space had to be found to cope with the increased demand.

Mrs Oldham said: “As a result of the demand, we opened up 12 escalation beds last Sunday, and it will probably take us three or four weeks before we can close that ward down again.”

Once Compton Ward has closed again it will be used as a facility for managing services so other parts of the hospital can be deep cleaned. The space will then be used in case of another surge in demand.

During the heatwave, the NHS Trust also distributed posters across the Island, encouraging visitors to call 111, or check with a local pharmacy before attending A&E.

Mrs Oldham said: “While we recognise the important of tourism on our community, we need to do more to strengthen our primary care so we reduce the numbers of people who attend St Mary’s for issues that, if they were at home, they would seek help from their local practices.”